Margarita Showdown in the State Capital
Late this summer, Steiner’s Speakeasy was asked to compete in Margarita competition hosted by Remy USA, spirit broker for Cointreau. The competition was set at The Vue in the Brewery district of Columbus and the goal was to bring a creative cocktail to wow judges and guests alike. The only stipulation was, the cocktail must contain, you guessed it, Cointreau.
So first of all, let’s talk Cointreau. For those not familiar with this liquor it is French in origin and is used as a replacement for triple sec, a low grade orange schnapps. It is sweet and citrusy with a low boozy finish. You will find it in most back bars and is typically used in cocktails such as a perfect margarita or cosmopolitan.
The offer to compete in the state capital was too much for me to pass up. What a great opportunity, to go to the big city from little Chillicothe and go head to head with some of the best bartenders in the state. Ten booze slingers in a battle royal, only the best margarita would prevail!
Something like this takes a lot of time and preparation. Everyone has had a margarita, so how do you reinvent the wheel? Times like these is when it pays off to be my friend. I commandeered my friend Rob’s pool and together we hosted brunch, inviting 10 of Steiner’s Speakeasy’s regulars to swing by and try four different cocktails, by vote I would submit one of them for the competition. Each margarita was unique and special. The initial trial included a cucumber margarita, pit fruit margarita, strawberry lemon grass and ginger margarita, and a pineapple and tajin margarita. At the end of the day the margarita I chose to use was neither. I took what I loved about a couple them and combined them.
The final product was the inspiration of my traveling days while working for the cruise line industry. A blend of Polynesian and Central American influence. I took the pineapple shrub and added lemongrass and ginger to it, keeping the Tajin pepper rim. It is the perfect blend of sour, sweet, and bitter. A margarita worthy of any classic tiki menu. I kept to the traditional tiki style glassware, but chose to go more modern with glass instead of ceramic to give it a modern flare.
Competition day came quickly and I enlisted by fellow bartender Kelsey Smith to come along as my helper. We set up our table, mingled around with the other bartenders and prepared ourselves for the 250 people that would be walking in the doors to see what we were all made of. Now let me tell you, that is very intimidating. As the guests came in we were asked over and over, “Where is Steiner’s?” The shock on everyone’s face when we proudly proclaimed “Chillicothe”. We were the only bar present not from a larger city market.
As the night went on, more and more people came back for seconds and even thirds, proclaiming we were the best margarita in the room. Our confidence was high. One gentleman even gave us the praise that he would drive an hour for one of our margaritas. People were asking for suggestions for other things to do in Chillicothe. We were quickly putting together our sales pitch on all the great things happening in Downtown Chillicothe. From hiking and Hopewell Culture National Park to the great restaurants like R Kitchen and Fire and Stone. We talked up local shops like Ivy’s and Totem and brought up Airbnb’s where they could spend the weekend.
As the event was winding down, they called for everyone’s attention for awards. A fellow bartender beside Kelsey and I reached over to shake our hands and said “Congratulations”. We weren’t anywhere near as confident as he was. Then low and behold, they made the announcement, People’s Choice for best margarita was none other than, Steiner’s Speakeasy. I was proud of myself, proud of Kelsey, and super excited to be able to represent our town in front of such a large audience that was pretty blind to the amazing things going on in Chillicothe.
We won a competition where we only knew five people in the room. It was overwhelming and validating that after 5 years of hard work, we were making a name for ourselves and our community. We were reaching a larger audience and they were embracing us. In November, we will be competition in a Holiday Cocktail Contest. So stay posted to Steiner’s Speakeasy’s social media if you would like to come watch us give the big city another run for their money.